I have clients who constantly talk to me about nutrition. I’m not an expert (even though my first certification ever 17 years ago was in nutrition) and usually will refer out if someone is looking for specific advice. Meal plans can be found readily online (for free, don’t know why people pay money for them), but people simply don’t stick to them.
However, there are some universal nutrition items that come up in everyone I deal with who is trying to lose weight or change their body composition. These are some harsh truths, but I hope they resonate with you. It’s nothing complicated. As with exercise, people obsess about the last 10% when they should be focused on the first 90 for real results. These are simple fixes and don’t take a lot of effort to adjust, but the results in a period of time can be staggering.
Here’s a quick list of 5 nutrition basics that you’re probably NOT doing:
You DON’T eat vegetables, or enough of them.
Most of us default to vegetables being a second thought when it comes to what goes on our plate. It’s a side at a restaurant that isn’t even considered beyond what kind of topping you’ll get on your baked potato. We will also eat fruit instead of vegetables and consider that just fine because it’s the same thing. Well, it’s not.
Fructose is more easily converted into fat – if you’re overeating, which most of you are. If you’re eating within your caloric energy requirements then it gets converted into blood sugar like any other carb and you use it for energy. However, if you want to remove that small risk (and greatly reduce your calories to boot) try changing out your banana for some carrot sticks or celery. 1 large banana is 140 calories and a cup of carrot sticks is 50.
You don’t get rid of starchy carbs when you can.
“Hey, instead of the pasta or mashed potato side can you just double my vegetables or give me some rice?” said nobody in any restaurant EVER. They will do it, by the way all you have to do is ask. This falls under the heading of portion control. One small serving of (1 cup) ravioli can be 200 calories and a cup of broccoli is 30. In a restaurant where you can actually control what they make and that you are PAYING FOR is where most people don’t limit the choices they should.
When was the last time a restaurant gave you a portion that was 1 cup? Again, never. This leads to overeating. If you now look at menu items in a typical restaurant you will see how loaded they are in calories (thank God for that) and that you can eat literally half and be just fine.
You don’t limit your added sugar intake.
One of my clients’ husbands literally took one step and started drinking his coffee black instead of double double at Tim’s. He dropped 8 pounds in two months DOING NOTHING ELSE. Traps like specialty coffees at Starbucks or protein smoothies which are touted as good for you are the worst culprits. I can’t count the amount of women who would do a group exercise class and then head down to the front desk for a “healthy” smoothie loaded with frozen yoghurt, replacing every calorie they just burned plus extra and wondered why they weren’t losing weight.
There is hidden sugar in many things we consume all the time, so adding more into it isn’t a good idea especially since again – more sugar in the blood gets converted to stored fat FIRST. Believe it or not, if you eliminate it for a couple of weeks you may go through withdrawal. That’s how prevalent it is in many things.
You don’t track your calories. Honestly.
Fitbits and other wearable devices have made exercise accountability easy and mindless. If only there was something you could do to track your calories. Oh wait, there is! There’s probably about 100 apps you can load onto your phone, and god forbid you have to type something into a database and press a couple of buttons.
Many of my clients complain it’s too hard and I give them my patented withering look. It takes five minutes a day. Literally. Delay the Netflix queue and input it and BE HONEST. If you had a handful of M+M’s at work, that goes in there. If you had sugar in your coffee or a glass of wine, it goes in there. You don’t stop recording on the weekend because “you were bad” and feel guilty. This is called self control and consistency, both of which are exactly what you need to lose weight.
You indulge “once in a while”.
Be honest with yourself. If you were, you would realize that the reason your weight isn’t under control is because you reward yourself and indulge way too often. Once a week MIGHT be fine for some people, for many it isn’t if you have a serious goal and a commitment. If you’re exercising intensely several times a week (which again, most of you aren’t – be honest) then you can get away with more.
That means ONE drink at Starbucks, not 3-4 times a week. That means ONE decadent dessert a week, not a couple of cookies every night. It means getting in touch with the reasons you’re eating the stuff, not just eliminating it. All those brownies, chocolate, sodas, restaurant food and French fries add up over time. And it takes time to eliminate them. Yes it tastes good. And yes, it helps when you’re stressed or feel like you need a hit to calm you down or feel better. But if it’s contrary to your goals then just STOP. Take a good look at your habits and figure out what patterns you have or what your relationship with food is and adjust it accordingly. Easier said than done I know, but it is the right step to take if you want to get your weight and health under control.
There you have it.
Did any of these resonate with you? Maybe more than one of them? Well, the best time to start a new habit is today. Don’t worry about days past and failed diets and bad things you have done previously. Today you can start a new habit. Start with the five items here and work on them and I can guarantee that you’ll be in a better place months from now. Get CONSISTENT.
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Recently I took a course in NeuroKinetic Therapy, which was a great weekend of learning. Not only did I get to experience a great new modality to help my clients but I found out some things about myself.
As practitioners we often overlook little flaws in what we do because we think we know everything. My strength levels are good, my mobility is excellent and I have a great amount of power and endurance. A funny thing happened though.
When I got my deep abdominal layer tested it was a MASSIVE fail in one area. Having the humility to analyze that made me realize that I had to go back to the drawing board and rebuild what I had been working on for my own workouts. And this meant going right back to some very basic exercises that I had been overlooking for years.
One of my roles as a coach is to remind people of basic fundamentals, and I spend a lot of my time during sessions doing just that. Reminding people to slow down, focus on form, even adjusting loads constantly to create the ability to control muscles and joints. More often than not my athletes have overlooked that if they can’t do A properly, then they have no business doing B.
So here’s the question I ask people – are you good enough at the simple fundamentals before you jump into more advanced things when it comes to your training?
I’ll give an example of my runners. So many runners are notorious for simply strapping on their shoes and going out for runs without having strong lower limbs or backs and then wonder why they are constantly getting hurt. My runners get trained like powerlifters in the gym because their bodies HAVE to be able to take a large amount of load constantly. This means they need to be able to have strong backs and hips which means great form during heavy lifting. Then, they need to be able to run short distance consistently day after day with good form and recovery principles in place before expanding their distance and speed. This takes months for many of them, not days or weeks.
If your goal is to deadlift heavy weight, can you even get into lifting position (ie a fairly deep squat) without compromising your spine first? Have you worked on basic position fundamentals enough to then be able to load the bar and try some controlled repetitions?Practice this first and make sure you have it down.
If your goal is to play a sport, can you do the basics like push hard anaerobically for 45 seconds without getting completely winded repeatedly and losing form during your movement? No? Maybe you need to focus on just doing hard repeats before getting back on the ice or track.
Or, if your goal is simply to get into a good exercise habit, can you perform some basic bodyweight movements – at home – for 10 minutes every other day and establish a habit before you even think about joining a gym? This can also take weeks for some people. And before you say an excuse, remember that it’s only 10 minutes. Drop one episode of Netflix or don’t hit the snooze button.
If you have tried to change things in the past and keep going back, sometimes it takes a complete step back to the very start and beginning there again before you move forward. for many this requires some humility, but if it will get you to your long term goal faster and without hurting yourself then it is worth the investment. Nothing in life comes without some hard work over time, and this is usually months, not days or weeks.
So my lesson today is to take a look at your program and maybe take a step back if you’re not seeing progress or you have gotten out of a good habit. Break down what you’re really trying to accomplish and begin with the simplest parts. Once you have mastered that, then you have the right to move onto more difficult parts.
I’m already applying this to my own exercise practice and seeing improvement even after two weeks. You can easily do the same.
By the way, this doesn’t have to apply to exercise only. Whether it be work goals, life goals or even family goals starting with simple fundamentals is always the best course of action.
If you need help figuring out where to get started, I’m happy to help. Reach our at email@example.com, on Facebook or on Twitter or Instagram @strengthottawa. I look forward to the opportunity to help you move forward.
It’s a New Year and gyms are flooded with people with the best of intentions. They’ve set a weight loss or other fitness goal to work towards in the New Year. Many of them have never been in a gym or haven’t used their membership in a long, long time. So what’s a good idea? Hire someone to help keep them accountable and help them with your goals, right?
Now before I go into the negatives, I believe strongly in my industry. A good trainer is worth their weight in gold towards keeping you accountable, safe and progressing towards better health and physical movement. Someone who is dedicated to their craft, learns constantly and uses many types of tools depending on the client.
The reason for this article is that in most chain gyms this is rare. The personal training world has no barrier to entry. I can direct you to a web site where for $200 and doing a quick multiple choice exam (which I got 92% on without studying a thing) you can get a certificate as a personal trainer. Many certification courses out there aren’t much better than this. Goodlife for one actually has their own training certification (called GLPTI) their employees are forced to go through (and have to pay for themselves) that teaches sales techniques, not proper training principles beyond periodization. Here in Ottawa, I recently learned that another big chain gym (Movati) is doing the same thing now. It’s not about results – it’s about money. Sales drives the training industry, especially in chain gyms.
Training also has its’ share of people who really don’t care. Most trainers (80%) leave the industry within two years and get into it for the wrong reasons. They want an easy way to make money because training has a high pay rate per hour while they can work where they like to hang out – the gym. At the beginning, maybe they have good intentions but quickly realize that they aren’t going to be working with athletes and fitness models and have to get up at 5am to service people. So their motivation is gone, and therefore your results.
So what can happen is a lot of people who really need help hire a “trainer” who has no knowledge or intention to really do a good job. Or, at most chain gyms you book a “free consultation” (ProTip: EVERY TRAINER OFFERS THESE, IT ISN’T SPECIAL). You get paired with not who is the best fit, but who has an open time that fits yours or a new trainer who needs to fill their schedule. And you get results – maybe – or possibly a higher risk of getting hurt or bad advice.
So here’s my recommendations of what to do when anyone starts looking for a trainer, either at a chain gym or elsewhere.
Do Your Homework
Chain gyms often have a wall of trainers, with lists of their skills and certifications. The newer ones will have less – or have things like “former college athlete” on their bio along with their one certification. This is to fill space, it isn’t a qualification. They will also be a lower level therefore cheaper to hire. This isn’t necessarily bad, it is just an indicator that they haven’t been around as long and possibly don’t sell packages well (ProTip: At most chain gyms, the “Level” of trainer is based on sales – not skills.)
Read the bios, then if you find one that you think sounds like they have qualifications to match what you want – go find them. Preferably WATCH them with a client. Some things to look for:
- Are they paying attention and focused on the client?
- Are they writing things down or recording somehow (some use tablets now)?
- Are they coaching and correcting when needed or just counting reps?
- Are they doing proper rest periods or chatting for minutes between sets?
Then – if they seem to be doing all these things – approach them (or the manager) and ask specifically to meet with them for a consultation. I’ve been doing this job for over 15 years and my consults are my time. Why? Because I as the trainer need to know if we are a good fit to work together, and sometimes I need to refer people to someone else if we’re not. I just recently did this with a friend of mine because she wanted something I don’t specialize in, even though she wanted to work with me.
If you’re going the independent or at home trainer route, make sure to ask for references from people who have similar goals to yours. Any good long term trainer has lots of happy clients, even if they are former clients for whatever reason. If they can’t provide this simple thing, then you might want to be wary. You also want to make sure that their style and facility matches with things like your location and how they will motivate you since you likely can’t see them work with people ahead of time.
Don’t Fall For Sales Tactics
A good trainer will have a plan, but if a potential client asks me how long it’s going to take to get to their goal my first answer is I DON’T KNOW. I can give a rough estimate, but it depends on a variety of factors, the biggest of which is your adherence as a client.
Many trainers will sit you down and say “It will take x amount of weeks at this phase of training (usually using big words like hypertrophy or mesocycle) to get to the next phase, we go through these phases and then you’re at your goal!” Hooray, right? But that’s over a period of 9 months and most will tell you you need 3 sessions a week to get proper results. Don’t get me wrong, you get the best results with more sessions – but cost (and time) is a factor for most people. Any trainer who says you MUST have this amount to reach your goals is trying to sell you something.
But wait – the total amount might be $$$ but we can stretch out that amount and you can pay for it over 12 months instead of 9, so it’s affordable. And then they start in with telling you all your flaws, or reminding you of that dress you want to fit into in six months and try to shame you into signing a big contract. I had a former co worker who prided herself on making people cry during consultations. Many trainers are really very good salespeople disguised as experts. It’s a huge pet peeve of mine and honestly it disgusts me. However, many trainers are hired by gyms for sales skills, not training skills.
A good trainer has a plan – but it is adjustable and takes into consideration things like time, budget and realistic situations. Most of my client roster basically had three weeks off schedule recently because their kids were out of school for holidays. A good trainer will adjust based on these circumstances. If you are in a specific phase of training then it can be extended, adjusted or whatever you need. Life happens.
If it sounds more like you’re buying a used car than hiring someone for a service then please think twice. The person should be telling you about how they are going to do things, not haggling on prices.
Don’t Sign a Long Term Contract
You’ve found a good trainer. You’re getting results, you get along and they seem to be a good fit. Excellent! But one day your trainer tells you that they are changing to a different gym that is inconvenient for you – or worse, is leaving the industry. There are little to NO safeguards that you can get your money back if you have paid them up front.
A chain gym will simply assign you another trainer (it’s in your contract). If you do your vetting process properly as in my previous paragraph this may work out well. But they will NOT give you a refund. Find another trainer that is a good fit for you and hopefully you can continue on the road to results. However, if you never signed a long term contract in the first place you can potentially move with the trainer which might be a better option.
If it is an independent trainer, then hopefully they are ethical enough to refund you, but this can be drawn out, and if they are more of a salesperson than a good trainer then likely they will simply disappear, especially if they are leaving the industry. Buyer beware. It’s much safer just to not have a long term commitment paid for up front. If a potential trainer is trying to get you to sign something for a long period of time, be careful and ask for options. (ProTip: Sessions should not cost less just because there are more of them, no other professional does this type of thing.)
Don’t Be Afraid to Fire Your Trainer
One thing that should drive the personal training industry is SERVICE. Just like any other industry. If your trainer is showing up late, constantly cancelling or rescheduling and you’re not getting the level of service you want then have a discussion with them about expectations and if they don’t meet them, you have the right to find another one who meets your needs.
The trainer/client relationship is often fairly close and can develop into friendship (which some trainers take advantage of in my opinion) so a client can “feel bad” for asking for good service from someone they are paying for a service! This is ridiculous. You’re paying $1 a minute for service – not a chatting partner or rep counter or someone who just doesn’t feel like working that day.
Just like any other professional, you have the right to expectations, and so does the trainer. I can count on one hand the amount of clients I’ve actually fired myself over fifteen years, but it has happened. Don’t be afraid to re-evaluate and do what is best for yourself and moving towards your fitness goals. Any professional will understand.
I applaud any of you who are looking to improve in 2017 and work towards getting healthier and in better shape. Set some short and long term goals, and remember the key to your success is consistency over time. The journey is worth it when you realize how good you feel and how much you can move without pain. A good trainer is a partner in that journey with you and I hope that you all find good ones.
If you want to reach me for inquires within the Ottawa area or elsewhere you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or head to my web site at http://www.srottawa.com if you have questions. I’m always happy to help.
Happy New Year!
As many of you know, I had a beautiful baby girl four months ago. What many of you also can probably relate to is the total chaos that your life becomes when a new life that is totally dependent on you enters it. Now that the smoke has cleared a bit, there are some serious lessons I have learned so far. It is amazing how many of these things also apply to those of you who are trying to make fitness and health a regular part of your life so I thought I would outline them and give some tips for managing things when it seems like absolutely nothing is manageable:
- Prioritizing is essential.
I’m very lucky that I make my own hours and can (sort of) control my own schedule. When you’re dealing with your child, they are obviously going to take precedence over most other things (sometimes everything). Too many people in my experience put fitness and health too low on their priority radar when it should be much higher. If you aren’t healthy, you can’t take care of yourself or your family. If you have no energy, you can’t jump out of bed on those nights when the baby cries at 2am. If you have a bad back or bad knees, you can’t hold/pick up your kids or the mountains of bags they generate. After holding an infant for hours in a Baby Bjorn even my back was killing me, which was a sign that I needed to start working on my lower back strength a bit more. You might have areas that need the same thing.
- Think about the long term, don’t obsess about the short term
Any good fitness and health program is a period of months, if not years – and should really be a permanent part of your life, just like your new little one. Development and progress can be drawn out over a period of time. Ask my wife after our little one just got through her first two baby teeth! Children develop at their own pace and can be encouraged but not forced, just like your body. Give everything time to settle into place and develop at whatever pace works best. Set goals that stretch over months and seasons, not a “90 day challenge” where at the end you go back to doing whatever you were doing before. Check back with yourself in a year and you might be pleasantly surprised.
- Patience is a virtue and remain calm
Not everything is going to go smoothly. Your routine might suddenly get thrown completely out of whack when changes occur. You might have to deal with setbacks or situations you can’t control and the best thing to do is just stay calm, make sure all of the right strategies are in place and keep moving forward. Don’t hit the panic button after a bad week and try to change everything around. If you have a good trainer, simply trust in the process. Even when your child poops in the middle of the doctors’ office, sometimes you just have to laugh it off, stay calm and realize that there is nothing you can do about it so why worry? Clean up the poop, change the diaper and next time, make sure to pack an extra change of clothes.
- Expect to hit bumps in the road and have setbacks
Sometimes as a new parent it is easy to get frustrated. Things can be humming along in a good routine and then something crops up that makes it hard or stops progress. If you expect and prepare for this ahead of time then you will be much better off. Can’t make a workout? Have a backup plan. Have to suddenly travel one week? Make sure your hotel has a gym or research local places you can get in your exercise. Teething and growth spurts for us was a prime example of this when you can’t keep the baby from being uncomfortable. Just realize what is going on and also realize that it is a temporary thing that will resolve itself in time.
- Enjoy yourself along the way
For every exasperating moment we might have with our daughter, seeing her smile at the start of the day and cuddle into your chest is probably the best thing in the world. Find that aspect of fitness that makes you feel really good – that class you love, the feeling after you hit a personal best on the weight stack, the runners’ high – and remember that every time so that you stay motivated and just keep going. Like I said before, it is a process that should take place for the rest of your life, just like watching your child grow and develop.
At the end of four months you never realize how much your life can change for the better but now we can’t imagine what our lives were like without our daughter. Think about that the next time you think about skipping a workout because ideally it will almost feel the same way. Better health and wellness to all of you!